Better days are sure to come for the Tampa Bay Lightning. If the team’s recent stretch has provided any indication, it shouldn’t be long before they do.
Tampa Bay had its six-game road point streak snapped and lost for just the third time in regulation in the team’s last 15 games following an 8-1 defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center Wednesday night.
Adam Hall scored the lone goal at 2:25 of the final period for the Lightning, who had won 16 of the last 23 overall games coming into the contest.
“It’s playing to an identity and the way we play our game, and doing that consistently,” forward Martin St. Louis said. “Every game during the last month we’ve been giving ourselves a chance and we’ve had great results.”
The lone exception came Wednesday, as Tampa Bay was handed its first regulation loss since falling 4-3 to Boston on Dec. 28.
Marc-Andre Fleury turned back all but one of his 26 shots faced for Pittsburgh, who improved to 12-3-1 in its last 16 home games after dropping four of the previous six to start the season.
Chris Kunitz notched two power-play goals before completing his second career hat trick at 19:49 in the second period with a backhand past Lightning net minder Dwayne Roloson.
Roloson, coming off a shutout of the division-rival Capitals just the night before in his team debut, made 18 saves, but split time with Dan Ellis who allowed three goals on 16 shots throughout the night.
Pittsburgh snapped a two-game skid and won for just the first time in its last three games. It took a 5-0 lead into the first intermission after Kunitz scored twice and Evgeni Malkin, Chris Conner and Tyler Kennedy also had goals.
“We knew we needed a quick start,” Kunitz said. “We knew they had a great game last night in Washington, but ever since that first goal we were just flying.”
Malkin got the Penguins on the board seven seconds into the game after scoring off the opening faceoff. Roloson disrupted the play with a poke check as the Pittsburgh forward skated in one-on-one through the slot, but Malkin maintained possession and wristed one into an open net.
Conner increased the lead to two 2:16 later before Pittsburgh went up 4-0 on a pair of goals 25 seconds apart. Kunitz added his second of the night on the power play to spot the Penguins a five-goal lead with just over a minute left in the opening frame. He sent a quick wrist shot past Ellis, who relieved Roloson for the remainder of the period and returned to play for the third.
“Anytime there is a goalie change you want to put pucks on net,” Kunitz added.
Mark Letestu received a pass through the slot and faked to the forehand before elevating a backhand shot past Roloson for Pittsburgh’s sixth goal at 12:54 in the second.
Steven Stamkos had an opportunity to slash the deficit in the second period with a penalty shot attempt, but his skate gave way as he moved through the slot before he was able to even get a shot off.
Kunitz completed the hat trick with 10 seconds left in the period on the power play. Alex Goligoski capped the scoring with his seventh of the season at 3:38 in the third.
“We’ve had a couple days off, but we got some breaks and we played a good period, so we got rewarded for it,” Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby said. “I think that period was a reflection of two good days of practice.”
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